In Dreams: Sluka’s Visions Spring To Life
“My battles, they be coming in dreams”, Bizzy Bone, “Real (Freestyle)”, A Song For You, 2008
The general perception, as pervasive as is music itself, is that the life of an independent musician is, in a purely pragmatic, capitalistic way, devoid of fulfillment. From the ubiquity of the proverbial starving artist to limitations of those coffee-house scrounching, iTunes peddling singers/songwriters/instrumentalists trying to get someone to listen to their singles, the independency of artistic freedom is widely believed to keep bank accounts bare—with a daily subsistence equally as meager.
Present that notion to Sluka founder and front man Christopher Sluka, who’s been pushing his independent hustle for a minute or two, and see what happens (other than him laughing).
“I’m happy the way things are,” Sluka mused. “People hate hearing that. They want to hear about this struggling rock musician who’s got all kinds of problems but nope: not with me.
Problems? On the contrary, Sluka’s been fortunate enough to avoid the fiscal trappings of the liberated artist paradigm for pretty much the duration of his career. He’s been able to parley earnings from recordings and performances not only to maintain his career as an independent artist, but also to cop a fleet of planes, pay for his flying credentials, and launch a flight school in the sunny Southern California soil in which he resides.
He’s still dropping videos and albums (the latest, Figure It Out, is slated for an October 1st release) while his revenues climb from royalties and spins in everything from retail locations to eateries—even overseas in the South Pacific and throughout The Continent (Europe).
His secret? Just so happens this singer/songwriter/instrumentalist (who jams on too many to name, but primarily contents himself with his guitar, especially when accompanied by his band) wasn’t always independent, which likely is the deciding factor in his incredible run towards financial freedom.
Matter of fact, he dropped an album on an Italian division of Time Warner in the early 90’s, and cranked out a couple projects (his major label debut single, “Sunday’s Child” b/w “Flowers of Steel” as well as two LPs) in the late 80’s/early 90’s on an international recording company based in Japan that was funded by Mitsubishi. After spending half a decade under the auspices of some of the more prominent recording entities on the planet and living the life of rock n’ roll in Tokyo, Japan, and other global hotspots, when it came time to renew his Time Warner commitment following 1993’s Lost in This World album, his thinking was as clear as it was decisive: hell naw.
“I had a lawyer; his name is George Fearon. In the late 80’s he set up my record company, my publishing company; he got me hooked up with ASCAP,” Sluka recalled. “I knew nothing about any of that stuff. I was just some young guy trying to get a record deal. But he set everything up so that when I could get out of the major label deals I’d be really good to go, and that worked out very, very well.”
“Greater is he who live in you and not in this world”, Tony! Toni! Tone!, “Lovin’ You (Interlude), House of Music, 1996
Sometimes they start with a guitar solo, a Spartan thing almost imperceptible amidst the shower of lights, scents, and desires of the unconsciousness. Other times they involve a full orchestra, from multiple strings to shiny, bold, brass sections. The tickle of the ivories is surely a longtime favorite, rippling through the torrid nights of overbearing constellations beaming down upon San Diego or any two-bit town worthy of erecting microphones and gracing the adoring masses. There’s also the faint hummm of melodies passing, a whisper from a wandering car’s cassette desk as the sun graces its way past the horizon, or the stirring of the breeze cascading through a sequestered glen along some rock trodden path the intrepid dare traverse.
Doesn’t much matter where inspiration strikes for Sluka’s accomplished songwriter, only that it does, spontaneously and, perhaps, a tad unconventionally.
“Most musicians I know they sit down at the piano and they start writing songs,” Sluka recounted. “I’ve never done that: at least not anything that’s any good. For me, I’m also a distance runner, and most of my songs just come to me while I’m out running. Or in a dream, when you wake up, you know? And it’s always all done, the whole thing. It’s just right there. You know exactly what all the instruments are doing, the melody, the lyrics, the whole thing.
“I explain it to people sometimes, they’re like how do you come up with this stuff? I say well, it’s like you know when you get a song, you hear it on the radio or whatever, and just can’t get it out of your head? It’s like one of those things, an ear well I guess people call it. That happens to me all the time, except they’re new songs. And so, it kind of drives me nuts because I can’t get it out of my head until I make a demo. Once I have a demo, then I’m good.”
This creative process will be on full display on Sluka’s forthcoming album, which listeners can get a taste of by vibing to its first single, the anthem of affirmation “Figure It Out”. The next single, “Isn’t It Strange”, will be available in July.
“It comes about every year or two, a group of songs that in my mind is clearly an album, Sluka said. “Like I know which one’s the first song, the last song, what’s the middle, the order, the whole bit. The keys, the tempo, all that stuff. It’s designed. So this latest album Figure It Out is a group of songs that’s the same such thing.”
With that degree perspicacity, it’s no wonder the independent game—courtesy of his surreal head start—has been good to him.
“I don’t care what it did to them, the game’s been good to me”, 2Pac featuring Richie Rich and Lady Levi, Heavy in the Game, Me Against The World, 1995.